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An Inconceivable Divide

Posted by MLGoodell on February 20, 2018 at 1:40 PM

The aftermath of mass shootings, especially those impacting schools, assume a depressing partisan predictability. Congressional Democrats ramp up the usual ban-the-guns campaign, trying to use the incident as a wedge issue to drive their base to the polls, and they dramatically inflate the influence of the NRA. A popular tactic is to denigrate the American culture, drawing comparison to a more enlightened Europe where people are reduced to using bows and arrows, knives, bombs and trucks to kill large numbers of people. Trendy journalists and female-oriented chat show hosts rear up to castigate anyone who offers prayers of compassion.

 

Which is when gun ownership advocates mount a counter attack. They cite the Second Amendment. They point out, as is often the case, that the gun, or the ownership thereof, was already illegal under current laws. They suggest that making schools into gun free zones only makes them a target for would be mass murderers. “Imagine if just one teacher, or gym coach, or janitor had been armed,” they cry. “Things would have been different.”

 

In the middle are reasonable people who look at the mayhem and wonder why. Why does this happen over and over again? Why can’t we come up with some sort of reasonable reforms to keep these people from getting their hands on these particular weapons? “No one is advocating banning guns,” they insist.

 

This is where the problem starts. Those who say no one is advocating banning guns are correct only so far as their own viewpoints are concerned, because the sad fact of the matter is, there are many people, some of whom are in power, and many who wish they were, who want nothing less than to ban guns. And a lot of gun owners know this. These are the people who join the NRA. These are the people who know in their hearts that their foes will wield any concession, any reform, as the thin end of a wedge leading ultimately to a total gun ban.

 

They may be wrong about the motive of the reasonable majority, but they have heard too many arguments which begin with “Nobody is talking about banning guns” and end with “Nobody should have the right to own a semi-automatic weapon.” So they refuse to concede even the most rational, responsible inch on the issue.

 

It is ironic that the gun debate and the abortion debate are waged over the same terrain. In the same sense that gun advocates won’t concede the most reasonable reforms, more effective screening, an enhanced data base to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and limitations on the size of magazines, because they fear they are the first steps to banning guns, abortion advocates also refuse to concede the most reasonable abortion reforms.

 

And they do this for the same reason. Because they believe the people advocating such reasonable reforms as limiting late term abortions, mandating full disclosure of potential health consequences of abortion, or requiring minors to seek parental authorization, view such reforms as the first step toward achieving their goal of banning all abortions. So abortion advocates defend the right of doctors to basically murder otherwise viable human beings, even when they know it is wrong, because they know if they concede this point abortion opponents will use it as the thin end of a wedge leading ultimately to total abortion ban.

 

The mirror image nature of these positions would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so dire. In both cases, both gun ownership and abortion, the vast majority of Americans just want to do what is right. In both cases they simply want to prevent innocent lives from being wantonly claimed. In both cases their reasonable objectives are stymied by fringe parties and extremist wings of their debate.

 

It would be nice to be able to offer a solution, but given our culture’s rampant flight away from reason, it is hard to imagine one that would work. The two parties in both cases, as in just about every other dividing issue in America, are like people in a tiny boat in a giant bathtub swirling toward an open drain. Instead of trying to find a way out of their predicament, they prefer to argue over who forgot to put in the plug.

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